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Opening a film about a slick team of criminals stealing a truckload of gold right after September 11 was always going to kill any chance the movie had of making any serious cash. A mere two days after the US tragedy, David Mamet’s latest effort opened to reluctant audiences and average reviews. While Australian audiences didn’t get to see the flick until February the following year the damage had already been done, with very little promotion for the international run. But thankfully those who missed it’s whirlwind tour of local cinemas can catch this one on our favourite format. And my guess is you won’t be disappointed.

Movie

Mamet is renowned for some pretty polished films of recent times, focusing on slightly different genres but still having the effortless style he has made his own. There’s the brilliant writing of Glengarry Glen Ross, the sharp wit in State & Main and the carefully constructed action sequences in Ronin. Mamet’s most recent effort retains the same slick feel of Ronin and gives it a little bit of a boost with a pretty interesting story.

Heist

Heist tells the tale of a group of professional thieves who find themselves taking part in a job that has many more consequences than they bargained for. Leading the group is veteran Jim Moore, who is looking to pull off one last big score before sailing off into the sunset with his beloved boat and his hard-earned loot. The rest of his crew seem like they are just along for the ride but play an important part in the complicated story. Jim’s main man is Bobby Blane (Delroy Lindo), a no-nonsense kind of mate who shows delicate prowess with a shotgun during the flick. Then there’s Jim’s wife Fran (Rebecca Pidgeon) and “Pinky” (Ricky Jay) who complete a different but believable group of crooks that are just about as calculated as they come.

When their last “job” goes a little bit haywire, the fence named Bergman (Danny Devito) decides to throw a couple of spanners in the works. Firstly he won’t give the team any money, knowing full well Jim was photographed without his mask while trying to grab for the security video. So Bergman withholds the loot while the crew are roped into another, more intricate job involving stack of gold. This leaves Jim without enough capital to end his devious ways and jump on a boat with his wife, forcing him to go along with whatever is thrown his way. To make matters worse, Bergman’s nephew Jimmy Silk (Sam Rockwell) must be taken along for the ride and he immediately sparks more than a little tension. Jimmy is relatively new to this caper and threatens to jeopardise the whole scheme by being a little too over-zealous. This is where the fun begins.

Mamet has succeeded in taking some very familiar scenarios and adding enough of his own panache to make them seem a little different. There’s no doubt we’ve all seen a caper flick where the veteran crook wants to perform one last job before calling it quits. And there’s a heap of films out there that throw a team of professionals together and have them cross and double-cross each other into submission. But with some great writing and a story with enough tension Heist manages to emerge from the pack quite well. The ending is a little cute and quite unimaginative but with even a tiny bit of effort it outranks the weak finale of The Score by a long, long way. This new wave of heist films could have been a hell of a lot more entertaining had some serious thought been put into an imaginative closing act. Too often we see films cop out and go for the most trite ending that springs to mind when a little bit of creativity could’ve elevated them all to greatness. Ocean’s Eleven was easily the best of the bunch.

As far as performances go Gene Hackman looks like he’s on a roll. With his recent employment history showing films such as Heartbreakers and The Royal Tenenbaums it’s no wonder that everyone is singing his praises. He’s pretty good here but admittedly doesn’t have as much creative material to work with on this one. Lindo is very effective and believable as a focused crook while Ricky Jay shows us why he is one of David Mamet’s favourite stars. If you thought Rockwell was slimy in The Green Mile then you’ll love his turn in this film. Devito looks a little strange playing a fence when he’s only four foot tall but there are enough henchman by his side the whole time to make him look quite scary. Mamet has a habit of casting his wife in all of his films but in this one it doesn’t quite come off. Pidgeon was brilliant in State & Main playing a quiet librarian type, a role obviously written exceptionally well for her by her husband. This time she struggles with a much more menacing kind of role, making this casting choice by Mamet just an excuse to get his wife’s face on the big screen again. Nepotism is alive and well.

Heist

Let’s hope this current crop of caper flicks sparks some great scripts and stories in the not-too-distant future. There’s nothing like watching a group of professionals plan and execute the perfect crime and all the twists and turns it entails. Heist is definitely one of the better crime films of recent times and probably deserved a better run in theatres, especially in the US. The gifted David Mamet has given the film his own style and put it ahead of the rest despite a story that is somewhat familiar. The performances are generally good, lead by old rock Gene Hackman.

Look out for this one in stores ‘cause you’ll get a good night’s entertainment out of it, I’m sure.

Video

The 1.85:1, 16:9 enhanced transfer is pretty good on the whole, if a little unremarkable. Mamet has gone for a distinct visual style, preferring to keep bright colours to a minimum and give audiences a more dull colour palette. These are still rendered quite well on the disc but sharpness seems to be down just a little when compared to other recent releases. Shadows look quite good, though most of the action takes place during the day. Not signs of aliasing at all and the print is pretty clean so this transfer will make sure you remain focused on all the action on screen rather than any faults in the presentation. Solid.

Audio

The film comes with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that is pretty standard fare. There’s not a lot of opportunity for the surrounds to be used aggressively but they are only called upon on the odd occasion. There are a few gunshots, explosions and ambient effects dotted along the way but they are few and far between. Bass is pumped up a little during most of the action sequences so the woofer will get a bit of a workout without too much of a strain. Most of the dialogue and action takes place in the front speakers, with everything perfectly audible throughout.

The score is written by Theodore Shapiro and sounds extremely good. Unfortunately the best sounding piece of music accompanies the closing credits, but for the most part the rest of the film sounds great. There’s no grandstanding with a huge, pumping, tension filled, scene stealing score, rather some subtle sounds that really do underlie the film very well.

Heist

Extras

A bit unlike Roadshow with this one, though the Region 1 release doesn’t fare any better. The only “extra” that is included on the disc is the theatrical trailer, and not a bad one at that. This one surely would’ve enticed a few more people in to the cinemas cause it really is well made. Oh, and there’s some biographies on there as well.

Overall

It’s a shame this film didn’t get a little more recognition during its theatrical run. David Mamet has crafted an interesting story with a solid cast and added just enough of his own ingredients to make it stand out. The video and audio are serviceable and the extras sparse but the film is definitely worth a look.


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